tv NBC11 News The Bay Area at 11 NBC September 9, 2010 10:00pm-10:35pm PST
please of people affected, evacuations, casualties. >> i thoughtdy that. >> i'm sorry, we can't hear in the back. >> okay. we have confirmed 53 structures have been severely damaged, 120 more have fire damage. we know we have evacuated at least 100 people into the shelters. >> severely damaged, destroyed? >> i don't have eyewitness account of that. i haven't been down to the bottom of the hill. >> it looks like there was a big -- >> that's part of the crestmore canyon which was on the east side of the explosion. our estimate is about ten acres in the canyon, which we have contained right now. >> is weather cooperating for you? >> we expect it to do so. the winds hopefully will stay laid down and the moisture in the air will be --
>> have you ever seen anything like this before? >> no, and i don't want to again. >> is there gas still in the lines? >> there is residual gas in some of the domestic lines which is typical. we've got the main shut down, so we have to approach the lines to make sure there's no more. >> how confident are you that the main -- major risk of bodily damage and injury, even if there's still gas in those lines, is there still risk? >> all the power has been shut down to the whole area. in fact, half the area of san bruno is shut down. so the risk of that ignition is probably nonexist tanlt right now, but you don't know if a flame or ember, you know, could affect it. so that's why we're cautious. >> any way to know if there are a few, a dozen, several dozen people missing right now? >> i have no information to deny or confirm that. >> is there any way to -- >> that's what it's going to take. >> when do you think that might happen?
obviously these homes are smoldering tonight. could it be as soon as tomorrow? >> my hope is we'll get an initial search team through the whole area tonight. i may be optimistic, but by tomorrow we'll have dogs and everything else here to go through. >> the first responders hurt? >> at this point, no report of injury for first responders. >> again, report in to the recreation center or telephoning at 616-7180 to self-report that they are safe. that would be a tremendous help to the effort at this time. >> do you know how many people -- >> veterans memorial recreation center in city park. >> how many people lived in the affected area? how many residents? >> i -- i don't know that we can estimate that. we will try and put that in as soon as we get that. >> how many -- >> again, we don't have that information right now.
we can assemble that for you. >> how big is the area? >> the next briefing will be at 8:00 tomorrow morning. >> where, here? >> here. >> right in this parking lot? >> this location. >> thank you very much. >> thank you very much. >> reporter: so there you have it, that's the update tonight, 53 homes suffering a significant damage, and more than 100 homes damaged before, fire officials got control of this fire. i shouldn't say control, they are now making sure that all of the gas is out of that line. that's their principle concern tonight, and obviously they have some concerns about the winds, because when i asked if they felt that there could conceivably be more evacuations, obviously that is a concern.
they can't well say that if the winds kick up that these embers wouldn't start some more problems tonight. but for the most part tonight, the chief did express, chief haage, they had a handle on the situation. so this may well be the final count on the total number of homes destroyed or damaged. with respect to casualties, we know there is one confirmed dead, several injuries, but they could begin house to house searches perhaps overnight and certainly by tomorrow morning. and he didn't sound like that was overly optimistic. there was a great deal of conviction when he said that. so that's the press briefing here tonight, jessica, and lisa, back to you. >> tom, there was a question not from a reporter, but from apparently a resident as you repeated, that said that he had smelled gas in that area where that leak that explosion happened. can you tell us a little more about that? >> reporter: okay, that's -- you heard the chief who could not confirm that. he referred some of these
questions to pg and e and i have not seen a pg & e person availing themselves of any questions tonight. but there was a report earlier tonight that a witness had said something to that extent. now, we haven't talked to that particular person, but i know neighbors are talking about one person in particular who claimed he had smelled gas as long as days ago, perhaps even a week. we haven't confirmed that, and no one here in an official capacity has confirmed that. what you hear in the background now is red cross about to make some kind of announcement. but we'll let you know what they're saying. >> thank you very much, tom. apparently, according to chief dennis haage, he said it might be through tomorrow afternoon that they could do a full search of that area to see the extent of the damage, and if anybody else was injured or perhaps died in that fire, what we know so far is that the county coroner's office has said one death so far. a number of people taken to the hospital, san francisco general,
seaton medical center, st. francis from the fire in san bruno that started about five hours ago. you are watching nbc bay area news at 11:00 right now. >> one of the most critical things said this evening, they need people to go to the veterans memorial center, they need to find out who is missing, who is accounted for. this is the address, there is a phone number, too. 650-616-7180. it's located on crystal springs road in city park. why is this so critical? you can't figure out who's missing and who you need to look for until you first figure out who you have. and there are hundreds of people that have been evacuated at this point. we have heard that giant's star pablo sandoval's mother was evacuated safely. dusty baker's house is also in that neighborhood, although we don't know if there was anyone in the home at the time. but again, people need to, if you know someone that was
affected by this, they're urging everyone to be accounted for so they can start figuring out who is missing, and then, as the chief mentioned, when they start doing a house to house search, when those embers are not hot anymore, when they don't have those hot zones and try to figure out exactly who's missing, who got out, who's unaccounted for. >> what we know so far according to the chief is the fire is contained. he was estimating about ten acres burned so far. they said, he said they're in a good, quote, holding pattern as of now. at least 50% of the fire contained. but right now, tom sinkovitz is with the chief now. tom, what can you tell us? >> the evacuation centers. >> reporter: hold on one second. >> they're mostly out of that neighborhood. and we're trying to confirm that with registration at the evacuation center. >> reporter: chief haage, one more time. there were citizen reports tonight that some of the fire
hydrants were not working in the area. is that true? >> yeah, we did have a water main break, and we don't know if it was caused by the explosion or it was another reason, or -- >> did that hamper the firefighting effort? >> as i mentioned, even if we had that water supply, we could not have extinguished that fire until the gas line was shut down. >> reporter: so additional homes were not affected as a consequence of that? >> all we tried to do was keep exposures to a minimum, yes. >> that answers one of the questions that apparently is being asked by some of the residents in that area tonight. >> complicated situation, tom. that is not the kind of situation you want to have, water main break at the same time that you're trying to battle this huge fire. 150, 200 firefighters on the ground there working this fire. luckily we heard from the chief that he has not heard of any
firefighter injuries. this is extremely, extremely dangerous, precarious situation, given, as you heard the chief say, that that line broke at the end of glenview. they have turned the line off, but the transmission lines, what he means by those, those are the lines that carry gas into your home, that some of those lines that are having that gas being passed to your house, those lines may still contain gas. that's why they haven't been able to completely access the main area where this fire and firestorm erupted. >> not only are the weather conditions kind of hampering firefightering efforts, you've got the gusty winds there and some of the fog. but the chief also mentioned that darkness is hampering the firefighting efforts, even though the fire is 50% contained. he said it's really tough for those fire crews to help put out this fire when it's so dark outside. our jean elle is live near the season of the fire. she's been talking with evacuees throughout the night. jean? >> reporter: i did talk with a gentleman who told me he did
witness firefighters rolling up to fire hydrants and trying to get water out of them and they were unable to do it. lots of people are talking about it here in the neighborhood across from here. can you see they have a fire line here, it extends for several city blocks. it goes across here into the neighborhood where this fire is currently burning. if you can see past the people and through the trees, you can still see there is a glow of fire, and there is still smoke bill lowing out of the fire zone. can you probably still see the lights from the fire trucks. that's the perimeter that the chief was talking about. they have a perimeter around the neighborhood established. he says it's a ten-acre fire and they believe it will hold, but i don't know if you can see the trees, it's pretty windy and folks over here on the north side are concerned about that wind and embers floating into their neighborhood. so still lots of concerns about what the future holds this evening. now, we talked with numerous people who said they heard that
explosion and then saw a wall of flames explode before their eyes followed by a hail of chunks of asphalt. those people say they literally grabbed their loved ones and ran for their lives. >> i had trouble getting out. i had to -- the car in the driveway was burning already. this car was in the garage, i had to lift the garage door manually, jump in and ride out through the fire, and it kind of melted the taillights a little bit and some of the plastic rear parts. and i'm sitting here waiting. >> reporter: he's a retired fire battalion chief who lives here in san bruno. he says it was the hottest fire he has ever felt, and he has been in several fires. just down the hill, i took a walk down there a little while ago. they are transforming the convalescent hospital into a scene for firefighters. they want to take a look at the
firefighters who have been up against those hot, hot flames for hours now. i've also been seeing fire trucking rolling in from alameda county, from pacifica, some folks are talking about seeing fire trucks even from out of the bay area coming in, and i think the idea is to get all of the firefighters that have been down in that hot, hot area for hours now out of the danger zone, get them hydrated, get them fed, make sure their vitals are okay, they're not too hot and get new firefighters on that line. from what the fire chief said, they believe they've got this fire held but it's not out. it's ten acres, there's still concern about the fire spreading into neighboring areas. so it's going to be a long night for firefighters and residents here, residents evacuated and residents worried about their homes tonight. >> thank you very much, jean. anything can happen overnight, it can change overnight. george kiriyama is at the shopping plaza where a lot of people have been going to to get
red cross help. they were trying to help firefighters because they can see what a difficult task they have. >> reporter: absolutely. you know, we're talking here to dustin springman, and you live in a neighborhood next to this neighborhood that has all the damage. but you actually saw what was going on and you decided to help out the firefighters. >> i tried. i saw the flames, i ran up there, and there was nothing i could do at first. they were trying to evacuate. they brought the hoses out, all the people from the neighborhood left their cars, left their pets, their cats, their dogs, grabbed their hoses, started carrying it to where they needed to go. they didn't want us to do it. the smoke was dangerous. but you know, everyone knows someone around there, so, you know, you have to do what have you to do, you know? it's instinct. >> reporter: the firefighters saw you helping them pull off the hoses. >> yeah. when they saw that, they didn't say nothing.
they were, you know, move, move! do it, do it! and that's what happened. >> reporter: your home, obviously, you're in the neighborhood next to this neighborhood. tell us what you saw. you went over to help, but you must have seen quite a scene. >> yeah. i have footage on my phone, i saw flames over sequoia trees, eucalyptus trees. not through the trees, over the trees. i don't know. to me, they were 500 feet high, it could have been really 60 feet, 100 feet, reality. but to me, they were, you know, the biggest things. it looked like a movie out of, you know, scinemax. it was intense. half a mile away you could feel the heat on your face. >> reporter: the firefighters said thank you for the help but also told you to get out, correct? >> they threatened to arrest everyone that was standing in the vicinity and everyone was like, go ahead.
they said the smoke is deadly, it's poisonous gas and everyone was like, okay, leave this to the professionals. >> reporter: so you were allowed to go back in, though, you're saying? >> they cleared -- they told us not to go back. my mother is still at home, and i'm going to go back to the house and make sure everything's okay and that's where i live, you know? >> reporter: a lot of ash, though, right? >> my car is full of ash. i need a good washing this weekend, probably go to bay detail on embarcadero and get my car detailed. >> reporter: thank you very much. just one of the many examples of people helping out others. he helped out firefighters, and we talked to others helping out fellow neighbors, people in wheelchairs to get out of their homes and to get to safety. everyone trying to find out what's going on and where to go next. a number of people staying with friends tonight, family, as well as local hotels and motels, as well as a couple of shelters that have been set up by the american red cross. back to you. >> thank you, george.
stories of heroism and even a plug for a car wash. let's bring you up to speed, i asked earlier whether sfo flights are coming in. we have heard flights are coming in as normal. in terms of traffic, the chp says 280 is wide open, bup the skyline boulevard offramp from northbou northbound 280, closed, and the ramp at san bruno obviously closed. jeff ranieri is standing by live for us is as well. you heard the chief says right now he's pretty confident that they're holding this fire in place. but you know very well we've covered these things so many times, that the weather changes and everything changes. >> you're exactly right. this gas explosion that happened this afternoon and this evening in the crestmore area is really in one of the worst spots when it comes to the bay area, when you take a look at the winds. we're talking about winds that on an everyday period are about
20 miles per hour sustained, and then you add in this situation where the fire is actually creating its own winds, because those flames and that area is so hot, and then you have the cool pacific air. it has been providing wind gusts upwards of 30 to 35 miles per hour. very, very unpredictable, still, and, of course, embers from the fire going, you know, in some cases as much as five miles away from the source of the fire. so while they say it is 50% contained, there is still a large concern, a large danger tonight. so if you're at your home and you're thinking in your head, okay, i might be too close, then most likely you are, and you should certainly try and make some other options and some other plans. because as we've been mentioning, this is -- a minute by minute situation, still for the firefighters out here. we also wanted to show you if we have time, we've been getting in pictures to nbcbayarea.com. they're heartbreaking and devastating.
this first picture is actually a look here just after 6:00 as this gas explosion occurred with the flames shooting up some 60 feet. then we saw within the first hour, take a look at this, the helicopter starting tro drop water here on what looks to be the source of this gas explosion. at least a main region. then quickly they were out there dropping fire retardant on this. when you look at these pictures, what is so heartbreaking is just how many homes are surrounded by these flames. this is another example, these homes, unfortunately here, likely did not have any chance with this heat and the intense wall of flames in upwards of 60 feet. and then here is the heroing part. the firefighters all the way up against the fire lines, risking everything for the people today. we've learned only one person has died which is certainly very, very devastating, but you almost wonder, when you see the flames this close to these
homes, how more tragedy, at least up to this point, has not happened when it comes to lives lost. now, of course we don't have those total numbers in, but it really is thanks to these folks right here that you see that we are still able to, you know, be tackling this situation like they currently are out there. now look at this, the wall of flames still extremely high in this photo, likely taken around 7:00 or 8:00 tonight, you have firefighters up there on the backs of their trucks just pointing their hoses, getting any kind of water resources they can towards this fire. now, as you see in some of these photos toward the end here, in the center of the screen, what we had happening in some cases, we had some low-level wind shear, we had somewhat of a fire tornado created around the center of where all this happened, just because these winds continually gusted so far. look at this, the neighbors, the firefighters, and you know likely these people all too close to these flames as we know
it, still continuing right now. >> very traumatic ordeal, and devastating for us to look at those pictures and video we've been getting in this evening, jeff, thank you. but can you imagine the people just swallowed up by this huge inferno? vicky nguyen is live at the scene of the fire with a neighbor who knows how traumatic it was and still is. vicky? >> reporter: just five blocks away we've been here and joining me now is john, who was home, heard the entire thing, went out and saw the fire ball. explain to me what you felt if your home and what you saw and what you thought. >> well, the first thing i thought was, knocked me out of my chair. i heard this big explosion, so then i ran outside, told the wife to stay put, she was feeding our granddaughter, and i went out and seen this big fire ball. the first thing i thought was, oh, god, something went up, and it was intense. the flames, you could see the --
see the -- >> reporter: you could feel the heat. >> feel the heat. yeah. you could really feel the heat. so i knew that something went down or something blew up, and it the intensity was just -- and the roar. it just shook your body. you could feel the intensity of the fire, and it never felt anything like it, except for when -- exposed to the earthquake in san francisco. >> reporter: and now we do know, 53 homes essentially incinerated, burned to the ground, another 120 damaged. and about 100 people at least evacuated, at least 1,000 pg & e customers without power. you are one of them. what is your plan for the evening? >> we're going to stay put, go to sleep eventually, ride it out and hopefully -- i don't worry about the gas so much, but take a quick shower, but the power is more important. >> reporter: you are part of the department of parking and traffic in san francisco and you
were here for loma prieta. describe for us how this is reminisce sent somewhat of that with power outages longstanding. >> it's a lot almost like deja vu. it's like, boy, to hit this close to home and see the fire and the flames and everything, it's really, you know, shocking. you don't think something like this would happen. you know, people just -- you know, people in conversation, the people in the neighborhood, just the devastation that happened so fast. and it was just overwhelming, you know, like how could something like this happen? you know? >> reporter: right. there were some eyewitness reports of homes -- these are two story huge homes going down in 20 seconds. >> yes. the fire response was quick, but something like this gives you -- you know, flames and the smoke was just overwhelming. >> reporter: question about looting, you heard reports from
neighbors and police officers responding already to possible looting calls in this area? >> yeah, down the blocks where they asked people to evacuate and then they said there was people going in, and they called, they said they called for -- they heard them call for backup to chase the looters away. i don't know how true that was, but that's what i heard. >> reporter: thank you so much for your time, john. we appreciate it. one of the at least 1,000 pg & e customers without power tonight. the update just a short time ago down there by the city manager here in san bruno, the mayor as well as the battalion chief, that one person has been confirmed dead, at least a dozen are at area hospitals now. the call is out for donations of type "o" negative blood. as you know that is the blood that can be used for anyone, and right now in this trauma situation, blood stores are being depleted very quickly. that is something they are asking people to do and donate, and just now we have still been seeing huge heavy duty
electrical trucks coming up this road, heading to the source of the fire. it's difficult to pin down anyone from pg & e on the ground because obviously they are very busy, they are working around the clock to make sure that they do everything they can to restore power to the surrounding areas and make that area safe there, safe for the residents who will need to return to see what is left of their homes and their belongings. reporting live tonight in san bruno, vicky nguyen, nbc. >> the city manager did say that the local officials had declared san bruno a local disaster. no word if they're seeking federal help here. there is plenty of help out there, we're talking about shelters, we're talking about food, blankets, clothing, let's run down the shelters right now. we know that there is an evacuation center, shelter at bay hill shopping center in san bruno. tom sinkovitz and george kiriyama have been there all night talking to evacuees.
also veterans member norrial city on city park way in san bruno, and next to that a seniors center has been opened up as well. also we just got word that the peninsula humane society and spca, they're prepared to offer temporary shelter for pets, they're going to provide pet food and supplies for any pets belonging to people who were evacuated from the area all this evening and tonight. so you have a number of shelters open for fire evacuees and fire victims. we're talking humans, we're talking pets, also as vicky mentioned the call is out for type "o" negative blood as well. >> also hearing from kaiser permanente, confirming 15 people came in from the explosion to them, some by ambulance, some people that just walked into the hospital. four of those people were sent to the st. francis burn unit in san francisco. three of which we do understand are in critical condition. so even though we do have that
one confirmed fatality, that number could change by tomorrow. nine other people were treated and released. kaiser, you should know, has started a clothing drive for some of these burn victims and for some of the victims of this. the red cross is saying that at this point it can use money. it doesn't want you to show up and drop things off but it can use money. in terms of other hospitals, sf general has had five people come in, three in critical condition. st. francis which has a very renowned burn center by the way had two people initially transported, and then we've heard at least three people taken to seaton medical. >> there's the red cross as you mentioned also by sam transwho is transporting fire evacuees, fire victims from one place to another. we should mention grocery stores are getting into the act, specifically safeway, apparently they're making lunches and providing water to fire victims. they are delivering those packages to shelters and in city
hall. this is safeway in san mateo county. the latest numbers we've gotten so far, san mateo county coroner's office says one person has died. chief dennis haage mentioned they will not know the full extent of the fire, the number of injuries, the number of possible deaths, until maybe tomorrow afternoon when they can do a full search because apparently there is some residual gas in the secondary gas lines leading into that main gas line that ruptured this evening a little after 6:00. causing this huge explosion. let goes to vicky nguyen. lots of questions for pg. and e, vicky. >> reporter: can you give us the latest update from your company about what is going on down there right now? >> sure. first of all, our sympathies and thoughts are with all the families affected by this tragic
event. we are working right now with the local emergency officials to make sure that the area is safe. that's our first priority. right now we don't have a lot of answers to the cause, that will be part of an investigation. we noech the national transportation and safety board is on its way here. they will lead that information and we will fully participate with them to try to determine what the cause is. right now we don't have a lot of answers to what the cause is. >> reporter: is standards protocal that the ntsb would be here? >> the national transportation safety board? in events like this with gas involved they generally get involved. >> reporter: there have been some unconfirmed reports that residents have smelled gas in this area for a week now. have you been able to research that and find out if that was true or if anyone called that in to pg & e? >> that will be part of the investigation. we don't know those answers yet but those will be part of the things that get investigated quickly. >> reporter: going back to what you said, that what you're
trying to do is make sure the area is safe for residents, what specifically can you tell us about what's being done on the ground and how many people are work something we've seen a number of your trucks drive by. >> several crews are in the area, making sure we can turn offer the gas in the distribution area so we can secure the area so we can allow the emergency crews in to take care of the fires that are going on. we're also working on the electric side to make sure we can restore electricity to people as quickly as we can. >> reporter: i heard from personnel on the ground this might be a very lab bore yes process. individual crews would have to go to homes up to 50-plus homes, dig down two feet and screw off the gas caps. is there any truth to that? is that the kind of work you're doing? physical labor that takes file? time? >> it will take over an entire area, so we won't necessarily have to go each house by house to get through that process. in fact, we do believe on the
gas side that we'll be able to secure the area very quickly. >> reporter: okay. and at this point, how many personnel are down there and what is the action plan for today, tomorrow and through the weekend? >> i'm not sure exactly how many crew we have out here right now. i do know we have them, as many as is needed. the action plan right now is to really focus on making the area, helping make the area safe with the emergency crews on-site and then immediately going in and supporting are the investigation so that we can help determine what the cause was. >> reporter: if you are a victim of this situation, what is the next step for the folks whose homes have been damaged or destroyed? >> well, a couple things. first of all, we're already working with red cross to provide any kind of housing and assistance needed for tonight. second, and we will participate in the investigation, and again, we don't know yet what the cause of this would be, however, if the investigation were to turn up, that some of our facilities were involved in this, we will do what's right. >> reporter: it is your gas
line, though, is that correct? >> what we know is we have a gas line in this area and it has a rupture, but we don't know what the cause is. so it's a little too early to speculate. we will fully support the investigation and until we get the investigation complete we don't want to speculate as to what it was. but again, as i said, if for whatever reason some of our facilities are involved in that, we will make if right. >> reporter: we have heard of other natural gas line explosions very violent, they do a lot of damage, they can be fatal. a couple just happened in texas and another in west virginia. when is the last time pg & e has had to deal with a situation like this? >> unfortunately these things do occur and they are tragic when they do occur. it's been a year or several years since we've had an event like this. again, what's important is that you make the area safe, you get back, do you the investigation to really find out what the cause was. >> reporter: and last question for you, how many customers
currently are affected. not in the immediate area but overall? >> i'm not sure exactly how many customers right now. >> reporter: about a thousand? >> both on gas and electric. i don't want to speculate for you, we do have a team on place you can go to and get some of that more detailed investigation. >> reporter: thank you very much for your time, president of pg & e giving us an update on what their crews are doing, securing the area to make it safe for residents and for investigators from the nhsa to come in and figure out what exactly caused the rupture. pg and e saying they can confirm there has been a rupture in one of their natural gas lines in this area, but in terms of what other facilities may be involved, they are still looking into that at this point. not a clear number on how many pg & e customers have been affected. earlier we reported about 1,000, certainly, in this neighborhood here, which is kresmore.
there are certainly enough homes that we can see the lights are out, so we've been talking with neighbors and now confirmation from pg & e president chris johns about what the company is now doing, and also the claims process and what they are doing in conjunction with red cross right now to make sure that the victims of the homes that have been damaged and destroyed by this natural gas line are taken care of, at least for tonight. so of course as soon as we get any more information about what pg & e is doing and the results of this investigation, we'll certainly bring them to you. but that process is well underway tonight and will continue until it is done. >> thank you, vicky t is protocol for the safety administration, the ntsb, to come in in fires like this. we saw it when they had the walnut creek gas main that broke at that time, the ntsb did handle that investigation. five people were killed in that accident when another crew, which was working on a water
main, hit the gas line in walnut creek right next to los lomas. >> one person has died as a result of this fire, so far. 15 people taken to kaiser permanente hospital. karl joins us. what are the extent of the injuries? >> i can't really say they were badly injured except for four. let me just run the numbers for you. as i said, as you said, 15 people were brought in here to kaiser permanente south san francisco medical center. four were relatively quickly transferred to the st. francis burn unit in san francisco.